Thirst. It does things to people. Some go mad looking for a source to quench their thirst. Others find solace in finding solutions to quench humanity’s thirst.
The first remain consumers. The latter has all the markings of a successful social entrepreneur, Scott Harrison’s tribe.
It wasn’t always like that for Scott. In fact, things were a lot, a lot different before he started his social enterprise Charity: Water. For the longest of time before his life took a decisive step (for the better!), Scott was the ubiquitous ‘party hard’ variety whose line of business was in fact, making others party hard!
From 18 to 28 years, this is precisely what he did. And he did that for close to 40 establishments which lined his pockets with commissions and perks, sometimes by as much as USD 3000 to 5000 on a single night!
As a promoter of nightclubs and high life where he would host parties for names that included MTV, VH1, Bacardi, and Elle, Scott was paid to keep people partying by making available everything that made people party through the night. His typical work-day began when humanity readied for bed and ended when most folks were hard at work be it in offices or factories. Money was good and was a reason he stuck on for a while.
With a great home in the form of a New York Apartment, a Beamer to cruise around in, life did seem set. All the same, it was a mess given that he and his partners never did the essential paperwork that goes behind registering an entity. Taxes too were pending. That said, he did want a break, in fact, a clean break which came to him in the form of an epiphany during one of his parties that had over a hundred guests. It was then that he made up his mind to mend things for the better, and forever.
Scott’s next trip brought about the turn in his life and started almost immediately when he left the shores of the US. It was at Punta Del Este in Uruguay that he promised himself to change things completely in return. He did so, and over the years it has brought change to millions worldwide who now have accesses to clean drinking water.
Things back then on his return from Uruguay weren’t great. He was broke. And he didn’t have a place called home. Holed up with a friend from his partying days, he started to apply to humanitarian organizations for a position.
None reverted, and not surprisingly given the limited use they would have of a party manager. Mercy Ships, a non-profit NGO of floating hospitals bringing medical aid to the needy worldwide happened because Scott agreed to pay them USD 500.00 every month for taking him on board.
Stationed off the coast of Liberia, Scott had the opportunity to take pictures (close to fifty thousand of them!) of all manner of suffering humanity who had gangrene, leprosy, tumor, and even worse with one thing in common. Lack of access to clean drinking water. These he emailed to his contacts from his partying days. And they, unexpectedly, started to donate to the cause.
A second trip followed with even more money coming in. And then came the realization of the importance of clean drinking water, and how so many people worldwide don’t have continuous access to it.
A 2017 report of WHO and UNICEF mentions that 3 in 10 people worldwide don’t have accesses to clean drinking water. A total of 844 million have no access to water at all, and 159 million are forced to drink untreated water. This results in the death of close to 350,000 children under 5 years of age every year besides causing deadly diseases like typhoid, hepatitis A, cholera, and dysentery.
With his photographs making the right impression, it struck Scott that he too could make a difference. This led to the birth of Charity: water in 2006 for which, in its initial days he did the craziest things possible to get more donations including increasing the cover charges for entry to some of his events!
With time, people understood and appreciated his concerns and donated without restrictions. These days his biggest benefactors are those who come through word-of-mouth publicity and include over a hundred families which donate regularly and are part of a forum called the Well.
Charity: Water raised over USD 1.5 million in its very first year of existence which went up to over USD 50 million in 2017. In all, the organization has raised over USD 300 million from over a million people worldwide. With time and persistent efforts, Charity: Water came to the attention of celebrities with the likes of Will Smith donating over USD 100,000 in 2010.
Charity Water has grown phenomenally in size over the years. It has close to a hundred employees in just the US itself and significant numbers in countries where its projects are being commissioned.
As for Scott Harrison, the once party animal, his time these days is spent furthering the cause. Not bad when it’s about change. In the present case, it remains all the more significant, given that the cause completely changed one individual who then went about changing the lives of millions. And all that it took was a thought from deep within the heart.